China produces Karl Marx cartoon series to mark 200th anniversary of his birth

  • The animation, co-produced by central government’s Marxism office, will be shown by video streaming website
  • Series will tell the story of philosopher’s life, including his marriage to Jenny von Westphalen and friendship with Friedrich Engels
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2018, 5:07pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2018, 12:48pm

A cartoon series about the life and times of Karl Marx is set to be shown on a Chinese video streaming website with the full backing of Beijing, according to the host company.

The Leader, which recounts the story of the German philosopher and socialist revolutionary, will be broadcast by “soon”, the company said on Tuesday.

The production was commissioned by the central government’s Marxism office, in cooperation with authorities in Inner Mongolia; Weiming Culture Media, which is based in the region; and animation company Dongmantang, Bilibili said on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service.

The social media post did not say how many episodes the series would comprise or when it would air, but said it had been created to mark the 200th anniversary of Marx’s birth.

The joint author of the Communist Manifesto was born in May 1818 and the political theories he developed continue to be the driving force for China’s ruling party to this day. His image has been a common feature on official propaganda throughout the year.

As well as covering the political and economic theories Marx devised, the cartoon series will cover his relationship with Jenny von Westphalen – with whom he married in 1843 and had seven children – and his friendship with Friedrich Engels, Bilibili said.

“Marx was a great man standing upright between heaven and earth, whose ideological system established through his entire life awakened all sleeping proletariat across the world and deeply influenced the historical development of the world,” it said.

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He was also “an ordinary man of flesh and blood. His love for Jenny, which met with much obstruction, and friendship with Engels, which they almost missed, finally became legendary”, it said.

As well as its assorted producers, the series has China’s central propaganda department and the website of party mouthpiece People’s Daily as its strategic partners.

A trailer for the series on Bilibili had been viewed almost 10,000 times as of Wednesday afternoon, and 14,000 people were following it.

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Despite the gushing preview from the broadcaster, internet users were less impressed, with several of them describing the three main characters as “too good looking to be true”. Another made the very precise observation that Marx’s handwriting appeared much neater in the animation than it had been in reality.

“This is very interesting, but I have some questions in mind,” wrote another. “Will young people be allowed to cosplay Marx? Can he participate in cartoon character competitions?”

Since coming to power in 2012, President Xi Jinping has repeatedly urged Communist Party members not to forget China’s socialist roots while pursuing the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation”.

At an event in May held to commemorate the 200th anniversary, he said that for Communist cadres reading Marxist works and understanding Marxist theories should be a “way of life” and a “spiritual pursuit”, adding that the philosopher’s theories were still “totally correct”.